HC Deb 10 June 1971 vol 818 cc1213-4
8. Mr. Ashley

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what special provision she is making for the 8,000 severely handicapped children in sub-normality hospitals whose education and welfare have recently become her responsibility.

Mrs. Thatcher

The welfare of these children remains the responsibility of the health and welfare services. Circular 15/70 issued last September sets out the arrangements which are being made to carry out the new educational responsibilities.

Mr. Ashley

Can the right hon. Lady give an assurance that the transfer of educational responsibility will not simply involve a change of label but that her Department will be able to provide the resources for those children who stay day and night in a hospital ward and cannot benefit from any kind of conventional education?

Mrs. Thatcher

Those who cannot benefit from the conventional education in the hospital school are mainly those who have to be educated in the hospital ward. The main problem there is to try to get enough teachers equipped to do this. There will be 300 places available this autumn in courses of initial training for teachers of the mentally handicapped, and I hope that this will help to improve the necessary supply of teachers.

Mr. Fry

I am sure that my right hon. Friend appreciates that much still needs to be done for the education of handicapped children. May I have an assurance that she will make it a very high priority to improve existing facilities, which are woefully inadequate, particularly in the county of Northamptonshire, where the Kingsley School needs renovation and remodelling?

Mrs. Thatcher

We are all aware of the inadequacy of the supply of places compared with the need. Previous Governments have been aware of this, and we are also very much aware of it. We have had responsibility for only two months. We have made considerable progress with assessing the position, and we hope to make improvements.

Forward to